HONOLULU – The University of Hawai‘i’s Unmanned Port Security Vessel (UPSV) is a robotic platform designed to support maritime missions in harbor and port environments including infrastructure inspection and incident response and recovery, and harbor surveillance. The UPSV was designed and built in Hawaii by UH researchers, students and contractors. UH Principal Investigator Brian Bingham demonstrated the vessel’s capabilities at Honolulu Harbor today.
Rapidly deployable, the vessel can be used to map the seafloor in high resolution, photograph critical infrastructure below and above the waterline, detect chemical leaks or spills, and relay real-time video—all at the same time. This made-in-Hawaii technology can provide critical decision support to first-responders and other maritime security personnel around the world. Interest in UH’s UPSV technology has led to a business development agreement with a global innovation leader Battelle.
Maritime security and hazard detection are vexing issues with with many technological challenges. Possible problems range from environmental spills to natural disasters to terrorist incidents. The University of Hawai‘i and Battelle, two institutions with complimentary experience in maritime and undersea technology development, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore innovative solutions together.
The model of cooperation is one way in which the University of Hawai‘i is helping to grow the state’s research industry. As part of the UH Innovation Initiative (HI2) the university is working in partnership with the community to build a $1-billion annual research enterprise in Hawai‘i, which will create thousands of jobs.
Under the agreement, Battelle will be working with the Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environment Security (CIMES), a Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs Center of Excellence headquartered at the University of Hawai‘i, to evaluate and transition technologies developed by CIMES researchers.
CIMES focuses on developing products to enhance maritime domain awareness in support of national security stakeholders and other first responders. CIMES has developed hardware, software, data, models and knowledge that span remote power stations, satellite systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, shore-based radars, remotely operated surface vessels, passive acoustic systems and a diverse suite of sensors. The Department of Homeland Security has provided CIMES with more than $10 million over a six-year period for research and development of various technologies.
Battelle has a robust maritime business and a track record of building products and systems to support both manned and unmanned vehicles. It has made great strides in developing high transfer data communications, sensors and recharging stations—all able to withstand rugged ocean environments and increase mission persistence.
UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis Syrmos said, “The University of Hawai‘i is proud to be working with Battelle on new Hawai‘i-developed technologies that will help keep our nation safe and resilient. As we move to make research one of the pillars of Hawai‘i’s economy, partnerships with companies like Battelle, one of the largest innovation companies in the nation, will create new opportunities to turn promising research into new companies and create jobs in our state.”
“We’re pleased to continue this relationship with the University of Hawai‘i and believe we can make great advances in maritime security by combining our strengths,” said Patricia Gruber, General Manager of Battelle’s Maritime Systems business.
“The UPSV is a perfect example of how CIMES is working in Hawai‘i and for Hawai‘i,” said Margo Edwards, CIMES Center Director. “The collaboration between academic researchers and private sector companies like Battelle in transitioning new knowledge and technical innovations is critical to help advance the nation’s homeland security mission and can be utilized by first responders right here in our islands.”
The two organizations made the announcement prior to a demonstration of the most recent version of the UH-developed UPSV at Honolulu Harbor. Bingham, the principal investigator, received $500,000 from the Department of Homeland Security, $300,000 from UH, and $200,000 from the National Science Foundation for the UPSV project.
“If a tsunami hit Hawai‘i, the UPSV could be delivered very quickly via helicopter and within five hours could remap the harbor for debris and obstructions,” said Bingham. “The UPSV has multiple uses for first responders of all kinds. As one of the vessel’s creators, it is exciting to be able to expand the UPSV’s development with the help of Battelle for our Hawai‘i residents and the nation.”
The U.S. Coast Guard and the State of Hawai‘iʻs Harbors Division of the Department of Transportation have also provided valuable advise in the development of the UPSV technology. UH is also working with James Lelong of Custom Fabrications in Kāne‘ohe to produce the vessels.